The Uplift wikiHow: Three Easy Steps

Originally published at

By Ana Miller-ter Kuile, 2015 Uplift Coordinator

I never dreamed I’d plan, as one Uplift attendee (“Uplifter”) stated, the “primary conference of sustainability-focused young minds on the Colorado Plateau.” Here's what I learned.

The Goal: Host a gathering that inspires young activists and strengthens a network of young conservation-minded people on the Colorado Plateau.

1. Find a group of nine young people to plan Uplift with you

They’ll be passionate and driven. They’ll help you take care of all the logistics, outreach, and programming for Uplift.

2. Spend five months planning

Actually, don’t inflict that on yourself – give yourself at least nine months to plan. You’ll hit a lot of roadblocks: where do we hold Uplift, is anyone coming, do we have speakers and workshops that draw a crowd and inspire? Keep charging through; all the pieces fall into place eventually.

3. Host the inaugural for-youth, by-youth Uplift event at the base of the San Francisco Peaks!

Don’t worry too much about technology failures (i.e. projectors failing to connect to computers that die as you tangle yourself in every extension cord at Camp Colton). Enjoy the community of young activists conversing at the dinner table with you. They are changing the world.

Note: If you’re lost, confused, anxious, frustrated, stressed, overwhelmed, sleep-deprived, and more at any point(s) in this process, don’t worry. Say, for example, you planned the event before all the venues in Flagstaff opened for the season, and you don’t know how you’ll feed eighty people, and you don’t have a recruitment flyer until three weeks before the event, and you wake up the morning of the event to an inch of snow on the ground? According to an Uplifter, you’re “not alone in the struggle.” Your leadership team (see Step 1) will be right there sharing those emotions with you! 

I studied ecology in college so I could measure trees, catch spiders, crunch data, and spend my days in the woods with a GPS unit, waterproof notebook, and my own company. But I felt something lacking. What’s the use of studying the world’s ecosystems if no one else knows or cares about them? Would I be alone in the woods watching species disappear and food webs fall apart?

Commence my three-year journey to find my niche in science and conservation education. My journey led me to the most amazing place in the world – the Colorado Plateau – where I’ve gotten dirty working with high school and college groups in springs, meadows, forests, and canyons of the plateau in the name of conservation. I’ve worked with coworkers and volunteers who have lived and toiled in this place for decades. And I’ve dreamed the Uplift dream – bringing a group of young activists together to strengthen a young, intersectional conservation movement on the Colorado Plateau.

Uplift has come and gone, but my adventure to find my place between education and ecology isn’t over. That’s the journey of my whole life, but Uplift informed what this path looks like in the future. I need to be a fighter; I need to find communities of passionate folks to join forces with, and I need to team up with people of all ages who care about the planet.

When that Uplifter said she was energized knowing she wasn’t “alone in the struggle”, she wasn’t actually talking about the struggle ten people went through to get eighty-five Colorado Plateau movers and shakers up to Camp Colton on April 17. She was talking about the struggle for the future of our Colorado Plateau region and the world. After Uplift, I know I’m not standing in the woods, or in the desert, or on the rim of a canyon, by myself watching ecosystems disappear; I’m part of a band of young fighters who will always take a stand.